By Zach Shugan
ROSWELL, Ga. — The Centennial boys basketball team did Tuesday night what it’s done several times during the 2020-21 season, putting together a complete team-effort and cruising to victory. The No. 8-ranked Knights won 61-29 at home against a short-handed Cambridge team, which fell behind early and couldn’t make up for it.
“Any region win is a good one, but obviously they were pretty short-handed,” Centennial head coach Matt Barksdale said. “They got hit by quarantine pretty hard. Cambridge under [head coach] Chip Flemmer, they compete. They did everything they could to make it as hard as they could.”
Since losing Jan. 12 to No. 3 Chattahoochee, Centennial (14-3, 8-1) has won five games in a row, all by 10 or more points. The Knights had 11 different players score in the win over Cambridge (6-11, 1-8), led by senior Logan Turner (13 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists) and sophomore Mansir Williamson (12 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist).
The Knights took firm control of the game in the opening minutes, scoring early often and playing high-energy defense against a Cambridge team missing multiple starters due to quarantine, according to Barksdale.
Centennial held Cambridge to just one field goal in the first quarter, a three-pointer by Jack Faulkenburg, along with one free throw. The Knights led 21-4 after one quarter.
Cambridge fared slightly better on offense in the second quarter, but Centennial still won the quarter, upping its lead to 32-14.
Williamson led the Knights in first-half scoring with 10 points. All eight players who appeared for Centennial in the half grabbed at least one rebound, led by junior Wade Kahl (5).
The second half started, and Centennial went back to its first-quarter ways, going on an 18-4 run in the third quarter.
Centennial’s starters sat the entire fourth quarter, as the Knights led 50-18 entering the final period. The Knights’ bench held its own, as Centennial ended up winning by the game 32 points, 61-29.
Currently sitting in second place in Region 7-6A with only one loss in region play, Centennial is in a great position when it comes to seeding for the region tournament. The region’s third-place team, River Ridge, has a 6-4 record in region play. The Knights have nearly locked up a top-two seed in the region tournament, and they have a shot at the top seed.
“We’ve had some really good wins and a couple tough losses,” Barksdale said. “In region, we’re taking care of business so far. We dropped a tough one to Hooch, who’s obviously very, very good this year. We’re doing what we need to do. I feel like we’re improving. Our goal is to keep improving and do everything we can to battle for a region championship.”
The Knights’ senior class, which includes Turner, Kyle Duncan, K.J. Spooney, Julian Nixon and Josh Hibbert, has racked up many wins and accolades, but the group has never played in a state tournament game. Centennial’s last trip to the state playoffs came in the 2014-15 season, when those players were in sixth grade.
Now, the group is in prime position to reach another milestone and end Centennial’s playoff drought.
“Our core five seniors have played together since fifth-grade junior Knights. They play well together,” Barksdale said. “We’re playing unselfish. We’re averaging 24 assists per game. We’ve had six different guys lead us in scoring. We have four averaging double figures (Turner, Duncan, Spooney and Willliamson) and a fifth (Kahl) right there at eight or nine [points]. We just got to keep that up.”
Centennial has five games remaining in the regular season, including a Feb. 5 rematch with No. 3 Chattahoochee (12-1, 7-0).
Cambridge, which was led by Faulkenburg’s 11 points in the loss, also has five games remaining, with a home game against River Ridge (13-8, 6-4) up next.
Kyle Duncan (Sr.) – 5 pts, 6 reb, 3 asst
Logan Turner (Sr.) – 13 pts, 2 reb, 3 asst
Mansir Williamson (So.) – 12 pts, 4 reb, 2 asst
K.J. Spooney (Sr.) – 3 pts, 4 reb 1 blk
Wade Kahl (Jr.) – 6 pts, 6 reb, 1 asst, 1 blk
Julian Nixon (Sr.) – 2 pts, 2 reb, 2 asst
Brian Baylor (Jr.) – 4 pts, 4 reb, 2 asst
Jonah Hibbert (So.) – 9 pts, 3 reb
Josh Hibbert (Sr.) – 3 pts
Kennedy Warren (Fr.) – 3 pts, 3 reb
Mark Asare (Jr.) – 1 pts, 2 reb, 1 asst
Zane Moore (Jr.) – 8 pts, 6 reb, 1 blk
Chris Bohr (Sr.) – 3 reb
Jack Faulkenburg (Jr.) – 11 pts, 4 reb
Will Paulus (Sr.) – 2 pts, 6 reb
Marcus Veazie (Jr.) – 2 pts, 4 reb, 1 asst
Mattson Peterson (Jr.) – 3 pts, 3 reb
Owen Edwards (Fr.) 3 pts, 2 reb